Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural reason to visit the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area. But when young legs get tired of hitting the trails or bored of taking long, scenic drives, it’s time to seek out alternative family friendly activities nearby.
Below are 10 ideas to supplement your Gatlinburg vacation — from adventure-seeking to theme park thrills.
1. Ride the Rapids
Tucked along the Pigeon River, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to take a bouncy family float, spend the afternoon tubing through cool waters or even tackle some hardcore rapids. Guided tours from companies that include Rafting in the Smokies and Smoky Mountain Outdoors let you choose the ideal level of adventure for your family’s preferences.
2. Go to the Birds
Head 3.5 miles east from Sunrise Ridge Resort to Parrot Mountain and Gardens, where you can explore four acres and feed the many free-flying birds living in the lush gardens. During the park’s open season from March through November, you can even help hand-train youngsters — and if you bond with one of your new feathered friends, you can even take home a family pet.
3. Hurray for Dollywood
Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country are just 2.5 miles east of Sunrise Ridge Resort, offering a close-by getaway to experience nature, simple living and adrenaline thrills all in the same place. The seasonal theme park is open from March through early January and hosts more than 40 rides, delicious dining and rollicking entertainment. Or, head next door to the water park from mid-May through Labor Day Weekend and explore 35 acres of wet, slippery and slide-y fun to cool off on a hot afternoon.
4. Take a Bike Ride
Pedal your way along the 4-mile Pigeon Forge Greenway Trail to enjoy river views, or delve into the forest on the 2-mile Gatlinburg Trail. Rent a bike in either city to begin your ride. Or, return to CLIMB Works for some mountain biking: They provide the bikes, expert advisors, fun trails and technical features for every skill level. While there, don’t miss the Curliest, a wooden roller-coaster-like track along the El Regis Trail that offers breathtaking vistas as you zip high above a forested stream.
5. Seek Out a Spooky Experience
If you like getting your adrenaline pumping with a journey through a haunted house, you won’t have to wait until Halloween. The Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg is open year-round. The 19th-century mansion is decked out with furnishings and antiques of the period, with terrifying props and ghouls hiding around every corner. Kids under five are free — but the attraction isn’t recommended for young kids who scare easily.
6. Zip Through the Trees
Soar above and through the treetops with Smoky Mountain views at CLIMB Works, just 1.4 miles east of Diamond Resorts’ Bent Creek Golf Village. Take a scenic ATV ride to the top of a mountain, and spend the next 2.5 hours zooming along zip lines and drinking in panoramic views from several sky bridges. You can even ride some lines side-by-side for more family fun, or relish sunset views and finish zipping under starry skies if you choose.
7. Embrace Your Sense of Wonder
When weather necessitates that you spend the day indoors, head to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, where amusement park meets science museum. The premise of the attraction is a top-secret laboratory from the Bermuda Triangle turned upside down on fictional Music Drive. Six themed “wonder zones” feature attractions that appeal to all ages, including extreme 360-degree bikes, a rock-climbing wall, virtual sports and bubble-making machines.
8. Believe It or Not
With eight attractions in town, Ripley’s Gatlinburg serves up multiple ways to spend your days with discount savings for their attractions. See downright strange sights at the Odditorium, swim with rays or play with penguins at the aquarium, and try to set your own records at the Guinness World Records attraction. Other Ripley activities include a mirror maze, mini-golf, a 5-D movie theater and a haunted house.
9. Take a Bite Out of History
Lunch in historic surroundings with authentic Southern hospitality at The Old Mill, an old-time grist mill situated along the Pigeon River that still grinds about 1,000 pounds of grain per day. Sink your teeth into some crispy fried chicken or other Southern cuisine. When lunch is done, head outside to browse through artisan stores that include a pottery shop, handmade confectioners, a creamery and a general store.
10. Ride the Trolley
You can add to the above fun adventures with a trolley ride to whisk you to some destinations without ever having to worry about taking a wrong turn or looking for parking.
At the cost of $2 to $3 per day for unlimited riding for most of the trolley routes in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, it’s hard to go wrong heading out to family friendly attractions on these colorful vehicles. There are more than 200 stops and several routes that weave throughout Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Keep in mind that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge trolleys are separate entities, so focus your day’s activities in one town or the other to avoid paying double fares.
Gatlinburg can be an exciting vacation destination, even outside of its most famous attraction. Look into planning your next family vacation by booking with Diamond Resorts today.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.